When a Stage IV breast cancer patient lost her hair from chemotherapy treatments, she made no effort to hide it. Yet, at the same time, she did not discuss her condition with her landlord or ask for accommodation. So, she was shocked when her leasing agent refused to renew her two-year-old apartment lease for another year, and instead insisted the woman go on a month-to-month at a higher rate.
In addition to fears over the woman’s untimely death, the leasing agent questioned whether the cancer treatments this woman received made her legally incapacitated, a claim her doctor denied. Still, the landlord demanded the tenant either give power of attorney to her adult son, or provide a cosigner.
While cancer does not always fit neatly into the definition of a disability under the Fair Housing Act, it likely will be treated as one if the landlord perceives an applicant or tenant as a person with a disability. In this case, the leasing office employees drew conclusions from their observations of various aspects of the tenant’s behavior over a two-year period, including actions not related to her cancer treatment.
After the woman complained to her local fair housing authority and the case was picked up in the news, and leasing agent was more amenable to a compromise. The woman was offered a long-term lease with only the standard rent increase. Still, she was asked to sign the lease in front of a witness who would vouch for her sanity.
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